Top 10 tips for every garden

Spring is in the air! For many people, that means getting out of the house and into the garden. It’s time to start thinking about cultivating the foliage and flowers that bring us so much joy throughout the next several months.

Looking for a little help getting started? Here are 10 top tips from Zoomer Radio’s gardening expert, Charlie Dobbin.

1. Plant pots at your front door. (Or urns, whichever you prefer.) Not only will they offer a splash of colour to welcome guests, they are easy to reach and tend. Dobbin notes you can swap out the plants depending on the season. (Think pansies for spring, for instance.)

2. Tend to your soil first. Before you dig in, you’ll want the healthiest foundation possible for your growing greens. Dobbin recommends adding organic matter — like compost, topsoil, manure and peat moss — to soil to provide nutrients and improve drainage.

3. Choose plants based on location. One of the top gardening mistakes gardeners often make is planting in the wrong spot. Different plants have different needs when it comes to sun versus shade and amount of moisture, for example. Find the best fit for the conditions around your yard so your plants will thrive.

4. Use mulch. Not only will it spare you weeds, it will also help retain moisture in the soil. About 2-4 centimetres should do the trick, says Dobbin. (Hint: check to see if your community has a composting or mulch program — you may be able to get these materials for free. Check out our tips for gardening on a budget.)

5. Time your fertilizer right. According to Dobbin, the best time to give your garden a boost is in early spring. By the end of July, many garden plants will have had their fill and you can stop with the fertilizer. (Of course, lawns, vegetables and annual plants are the exception.)

6. Visit your garden on a daily basis. Or as often as possible, says Dobbin. You don’t have to get down on your hands and knees and get your hands dirty, but frequent visits can help you spot problems like pests and disease in the earliest and most treatable stages. Once a problem has taken root, it can be harder to eliminate.

Besides, with all your hard work, you should enjoy your gardens — preferably with a glass of wine.

7. Practice good garden hygiene. Diseased and decaying plant material can be your garden’s nemesis, so it’s best to clear away it away at the start of the season. Have a look at your plants and remove any disease, dead or damaged material. (You’ll want to keep up this helpful habit throughout the season too.)

8. Prune. We know it can be hard to trim back healthy greenery and flowers, but a little pruning can encourage new, healthy growth. Not only should you "dead head" the flowers, but trimming plants after they flower can encourage more blooms next year, says Dobbin.

9. Welcome birds. Who doesn’t love a little bird watching in the backyard? Birds are handy helpers too — they can eat bugs, aerate your lawn and garden and clean up other debris. Meeting their needs by providing a bird feeder, bird house and bird bath can attract guests — as can plants that provide shelter and nectar. (Fore more ideas, see Creating attractive wildlife habitats and Nature Canada’s tips for making your backyard bird-friendly.)

10. Kill pests early. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention… Dobbin recommends using 100 per cent organic dormant spray outdoors in the early spring to get rid of any pests that made your garden home during the winter.  

If you’re not familiar with the term, dormant spraying means to apply a preventative spray while plants are still in their dormant stage. (In other words, before they start growing buds.) Dormant sprays contain ingredients like horticultural oil (which deals with insects and their eggs) and lime sulphur (which tackles fungus). and Richmond Nurseries have good overviews on how to do it. 

Overall, you can’t go wrong carefully considering your garden’s needs. Some thought and effort in the early stages will pay off throughout the years.

Have garden questions? Don’t miss Charlie on Zoomer Radio as she hosts The Garden Show Saturdays at 9:00 am. (Not in the Toronto area? Listen online or download the AM 740 Zoomer Radio app from iTunes or the Android Market. You can also hear past episodes of the show online.)

Source: Canada Blooms newsletter

Photo © Elena Elisseeva

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